New Opera Showcase Composers and Librettists
Stewart Copeland has spent three decades in the forefront of contemporary music as a rock star, acclaimed film score writer and composer in the disparate worlds of opera, ballet, world music and chamber music. In 1977, Copeland formed The Police, a band that became a defining force in rock music. He spent 20 years as a successful film and TV composer, working for the likes of Francis Ford Coppola on Rumble Fish and Oliver Stone on Wall Street. Copeland went on to form Animal Logic with Stanley Clarke and Oysterhead with Trey Anastasio and Les Claypool, meanwhile finding time to win the Archie David Cup with his polo team. His first opera, Holy Blood and the Crescent Moon, was commissioned for the Cleveland Opera in 1989. In April 2011, he wrote a short opera based on the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which premiered at the Royal Opera House in London.
This season, Copeland premieres his new percussion concerto, Tyrant's Crush, with the Pittsburgh Symphony, followed by performances with the New West Symphony. He remounts his score for MGM’s silent film classic Ben-Hur, performing with the Seattle Rock Orchestra, Pacific Symphony and Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra. Awards include the keys to the city of Milan, the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters, five Grammys and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Through it all, a sense of humor and appreciation for his utterly unique career has shone through as Copeland has enjoyed working in a remarkable array of genres.
David Henry Hwang
To call David Henry Hwang a major American dramatist is something of an understatement. Described by The New York Times as "a true original" and by Time magazine as "the first important dramatist of American public life since Arthur Miller," Hwang is best known as the author of M. Butterfly. That enduring 1988 work, which won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, John Gassner Award and Outer Critics Circle Award, was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His play Golden Child premiered Off Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, received an Obie Award and subsequently played on Broadway, where it received three Tony nominations. Yellow Face, which premiered at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum and New York's Public Theater, also won an Obie Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Chinglish premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, where it won a 2011 Jefferson Award for Best New Work before moving to Broadway and being named Best New American Play of 2011 by Time magazine.
According to Opera News, Hwang is America’s most-produced living opera librettist. He has written four works with composer Philip Glass, including 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, and his libretti have been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Lincoln Center, Spoleto Festival USA and elsewhere. The Deutsche Grammophon recording of his libretto for Ainadamar won two Grammy Awards after having spent time at the top of Billboard magazine’s classical music charts. His most recent libretto is for An American Soldier, with music by Huang Ruo. The opera premiered at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater in June 2014.
Stephen Kitsakos is a librettist, author and theater journalist. For the American composer Sheila Silver, he wrote the libretto for the chamber opera The Wooden Sword (2009), winner of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Composition; a cantata for women’s vocal quartet, The White Rooster: A Tale of Compassion (2010), commissioned by the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries; and the opera A Thousand Splendid Suns (2015), based on the international bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini. An advocate of the transformational power of art, Kitsakos explores in his work the connection between the healing power of the performing arts and the use of sacred texts to inspire contemporary storytelling.
A graduate of NYU and a writer member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild and the BMI Lehman Engel Workshops, Kitsakos has received writing commissions and support from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Catskill Watershed Corporation, the BMI Foundation, The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and the Episcopal Diocese of New York. His recent novel The Accidental Pilgrim, set at an archaeological dig in Northern Israel, explores the intersection between science and religion. It was released by ASD Publishing in 2015. A contributing writer to The Sondheim Review, as well as Music in American Life, Kitsakos is the former assistant chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz, where he thought courses in performance and theater studies from 1999 to 2013. Currently, he splits his time between Key West and New York City.
Hailed by The New York Times as “striking and resourceful” and “handsomely brooding,” Hannah Lash’s music has been performed worldwide at venues such as The TimesCenter in Manhattan, the Art Institute of Chicago, Tanglewood Music Center, Harvard University, the MusicX festival in Switzerland, the Chelsea Art Museum and American Opera Project’s stage in New York City. Commissions include The Fromm Foundation, The Naumburg Foundation, Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, American Composers Orchestra, Orchestra of the Swan, The Orpheus Duo, Talujon Percussion, The Howard Hanson Foundation’s Commissioning Fund, Case Western Reserve’s University Circle Wind Ensemble, MAYA and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble.
Lash has received numerous honors and prizes, including the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a fellowship from Yaddo, the Naumburg Prize in Composition, the Bernard Rogers Prize in Composition, the Bernard and Rose Sernoffsky Prize in Composition and numerous academic awards. Lash obtained her Ph.D. in composition from Harvard University in 2010. She has held teaching positions at Harvard University and Alfred University, and she currently serves on the composition faculty at Yale University School of Music.
Jonathan Moore is an award-winning actor, writer and director. As an actor, he has played leading roles at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Court, Donmar and Royal Exchange, as well as on film, BBC TV and radio. He has directed theater and opera world premieres at the Almeida, Donmar, West End, Royal Exchange, Gate, English National Opera, Covent Garden and La Fenice in Venice, among many others. He has directed plays from contemporary to Shakespeare, as well as world premieres by composers such as Turnage, MacMillan, Henze, Schnittke, Nyman and Copeland. His early work was sponsored by Joe Strummer of The Clash, and he collaborated with members of the punk band Killing Joke and with industrial music group Test Dept.
A published playwright and librettist, Moore has had his work performed at leading theaters, including Donmar, Royal Exchange and Gate, as well as on BBC TV and radio. Moore was asked by Mark Rylance to direct the large-scale, immersive, site-specific project for over 50 performers, titled What You Will, a co-production of Shakespeare's Globe, The Cultural Olympiad and the Mayor’s Office. His latest play, INIGO, about Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits, had a successful Off West End run and was transferred to the Main House of the Pleasance. Moore is due to direct a large-scale, site-specific, immersive project for Ludovico Einaudi in Italy and a new opera project with Stewart Copeland. He has spoken on the arts at the Oxford University Union and on several BBC TV and radio programs. He is on the Artistic Advisory Committee of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He has been a Who's Who entrant since 2007.
Bright Sheng is respected as one of the leading composers of our time, whose stage, orchestral, chamber and vocal works are performed regularly by the greatest performing arts institutions throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Proclaimed by the MacArthur Foundation in 2001 as “an innovative composer who merges diverse musical customs in works that transcend conventional aesthetic boundaries,” Sheng creates music with a strong Asian influence. However, it is the synthesis with Western musical tradition that makes his work truly distinctive and original, an outcome from his profound understanding of both cultures. As Sheng admits, “I consider myself both 100 percent American and 100 percent Asian.”
In September 2016, San Francisco Opera will premiere Sheng’s commissioned opera Dream of the Red Chamber, featuring a libretto by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly and Chinglish) and Sheng, based on a beloved Chinese novel by the eighteenth-century writer Cao Xueqin. In addition to composing, Sheng enjoys an active career as a conductor and concert pianist, and he frequently acts as music advisor and artistic director to orchestras and festivals. He is currently the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor at University of Michigan and the Y. K. Pao Distinguished Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where, in 2011, he became the founding artistic director of The Intimacy of Creativity — The Bright Sheng Partnership: Composers Meet Performers in Hong Kong. Sheng was born in 1955 in Shanghai and moved to New York in 1982 to pursue graduate work, study composition and conduct privately with his mentor Leonard Bernstein. Bright Sheng's music is exclusively published by G. Schirmer, Inc.
Sheila Silver’s compositions have been commissioned and performed internationally. Germany’s Wetterauer Zeitung wrote of Silver: “Only a few composers in any generation enliven the art form with their musical language and herald new directions in music. Sheila Silver is such a visionary.” Recent honors include a 2014 OPERA America Discovery Grant for Female Composers, funded by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, and a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship — both for the opera she is currently composing, which is based on A Thousand Splendid Suns. Other honors include the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Composition; Bunting Institute Fellowship; Rome Prize; Prix de Paris; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Composer Award; and awards and commissions from The Rockefeller Foundation, Camargo Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, New York State Council on the Arts, Barlow Foundation, The Fromm Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cary Trust.
Silver recently returned from a six-month stay in Pune, India, where she studied Hindustani music with Pandit Kedar Narayan Bodas. Her intention is to incorporate an authentic Hindustani color (Hindustani music is at the core of the music of Afghanistan, where her opera takes place) into her Western voice. Over the past 25 years, Silver has composed several substantial works for Gilbert Kalish: Sonata for Cello and Piano (1988, CRI/New World Records), Six Preludes for Piano on Poems of Baudelaire (1992, CRI/NWR), Twilight’s Last Gleaming (2007, Bridge), for two pianos and percussion, and Two Songs for Diane, in memoriam (2012), for soprano and piano.
Onstage at the Opera Center
The New Opera Showcase concert is part of OPERA America’s 2015–2016 Onstage at the Opera Center series of performances and discussions. The second half of the Onstage season includes the following events, all taking place at OPERA America’s National Opera Center in Midtown Manhattan and streaming live at operaamerica.org/Live:
Creators in Concert
- Jake Heggie, Composer | Tuesday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m.
- Sondra Radvanovsky, Soprano | Thursday, March 3 at 7:00 p.m.
- Isabel Leonard, Mezzo-soprano | Thursday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Emerging Artist Recital Series
- The Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists | Thursday, February 25 at 7:00 p.m.
- Jensen Foundation Competition Winner: John Brancy, Baritone | Thursday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Masters at Work: Crafting an Opera with Carlisle Floyd
- Orchestrating | Friday, January 15 at 1:00 p.m.
- Design and Creative Team | Friday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m.
- Rehearsal and Performance | Friday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m.
For more information about the 2015–2016 Onstage at the Opera Center season or to purchase tickets, visit operaamerica.org/Onstage.
Onstage at the Opera Center events are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.
For press inquiries, contact Press@operaamerica.org or 212.796.8628.